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Basic Composition for Newbie Artists and Photographers – 2

Updated on April 5, 2012

The Diagonal

Using a simple diagonal gives dynamism to any picture. This is the easiest trick a newbie can use and it can be done right at the shooting stage for photographers. Look at the pictures below for examples of a simple diagonal.

Sometimes the diagonal is visible clearly.
Sometimes the diagonal is visible clearly.
Many diagonals here
Many diagonals here
You can tilt, crop and cut to get a diagonal.
You can tilt, crop and cut to get a diagonal.

For a painting or drawing, you can design a diagonal composition easily. But what do you do with a camera? If you can't establish a diagonal when you shoot the picture, you can always edit it to form one later.

You can crop a picture or tilt it. Sometimes a diagonal is formed invisibly. It just connects the points of interest in a picture.

Sometimes, when you shoot a landscape, the lines of perspective naturally form diagonals.

I have a tendency to use diagonals that go up from left to right but you can have them go down too. Lines that go up means progress to your subconscious mind, so it's a good idea if you want to communicate positive feelings.

That's no rule, however, as my grazing cow on the right looks quite content.

Using the diagonal as a basic compositional element is very addictive. I found myself automatically doing this! I do my best these days to avoid diagonals, straighten myself and explore other designs.

But, as a simple solution, it always works for one reason:

Horizontal and vertical lines lend stability to a picture while diagonals infuse dynamism. If you want some action in your picture, even when it's a picture of your sleepy cat, try tilting or cropping the pic till you get a diagonal.Have fun!

Perspective lines can form natural diagonals
Perspective lines can form natural diagonals


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    • Kenny Wordsmith profile image

      Ashok Rajagopalan 6 years ago from Chennai

      Like your avatar now, Charlotte? This one is the coolest! :)

    • gamergirl profile image

      Kiz 6 years ago from Antioch, TN

      Diagonals! I love diagonals in photography. I make very good use of diagonals in my head shots, all the time. :)